In my recent post of the four week old puppies (SMILE!) I eluded to the fact that taking photos of baby puppies can be quite a challenge. I was not exaggerating when I wrote that I took 3,224 photos as we tried to capture the essence of these wee little souls.
The promised sunny weather for today did not materialize. So, an indoor project was a valuable way to spend the afternoon. I decided to look back on the original images to see if I could illustrate the experience of attempting to film four week old puppies.
The exercise was interesting. It yielded a few unique categories of failure that I would like to share, here.
Let’s just get this one out of the way. I am responsible for getting the image in focus. At times, I fail. Blurry pictures comprise quite a few of the images that end up on the cutting room floor (so to speak.)
The Shut Eye
Another common issue is one that most photographers must contend with – shut eyes. Animals that blink, like humans and dogs, are prone to be captured with their eyes in a less than optimal “bight and cheery” openness.
Young puppies that are placed in a new location sometimes begin a scanning behavior, which I suspect has something to do with an attempt to catch a familiar scent. Many of the photos that I couldn’t use displayed a puppy looked upwards.
It’s a real behavior for those of us who encounter something we find skeptical. But, these puppies aren’t actively giving me or the situation the “side-eye.” Rather, it’s an artifact of catching a moment in time.
The vision of a puppy sitting, standing or lying down is most often an illusion. These puppies are on the move. Constantly. Robert needs to be ready to wrangle them back into place during the entire photo shoot. At times, my heart skips a beat as a puppy moves to the edge of the buffet table before Robert catches it. Yes, we put the puppies on a high table so that I can sit directly across from them to have a direct line into their eyes.
Four week old puppies are hard-wired to beckon help as soon as they feel the need. I have always found it fascinating to watch mother dogs. They are all different in their approach to a whining pup. I used to see great differences between ewes with lambs, as well. The seasoned mothers learned to let their lambs cry a little or a lot before racing to their rescue. But, that delayed reaction didn’t come without a remote evaluation of the level of peril the lamb was facing. Older ewes learned to ignore their lambs as a way to help teach them the value of “figure it out for yourself.” The same is true of mother dogs. The entire time we were filming these puppies, their mother lay six feet away, calmly observing. I believe that, first, she trusts us and second, she was able to evaluate the pitch in the puppies cries and discern that they were just overwhelmed with the newness they were facing, and that they were not actually in any danger.
Nonetheless, the sound of a crying babe (regardless of species) has a way of triggering a human’s nervous system. I’m not sure these flat, inaudible images do justice to the actual situation.
Puppies lick. I believe that’s all that I need to say about this category of images that end up in the reject pile of photos that would otherwise be quite lovely.
Sometimes a photo belongs in two categories, like the next one; worthy of entry in either Shut Eyes & The Tongue.
Puppies sleep about 23 hours a day at this age. So, one might expect a yawn now and again. Dogs also yawn when they feel stressed. I assume there’s a bit of each going on in these photos. What I learned by really examining these pictures is that yawning often ends in a snarl akin to the face a wild tiger makes, like in this first photo.
I’m pleased to say that the puppies are beginning to know my voice. When filming dogs (not just puppies) I often make silly sounds to get the animal to look my way. With an adult dog, I can usually pull that off without causing them to break their sitting position (after all, I am a dog trainer.) But, with these baby puppies, making squeaky sounds sometimes is just enough to get them to come directly towards me. That doesn’t make for good photographs.
This, again, isn’t a deliberate behavior. When we put the puppies in something like a basket (which, yes looks very cute but mostly is used to contain them for a few seconds), they don’t always know we want them to be peering over the edge of the container.
Scary Movie Face
This last category of photos that just don’t represent these little angles in their best light, is one I call “Scary Movie Face.” It’s not a side-eye, exactly. It’s more a look of sheer terror merged with utter disgust. Of course the puppies are neither truly experiencing fear or disgust. I’ve just caught them at a moment in time. Like a scary movie, they bring forth some sort of emotion to the viewer! Enjoy!